Web Content Policy
The City’s web content policy exists to achieve a consistent, branded, user-focused, and accessible experience across the City’s website. This document answers common questions about what is appropriate for the City’s website.
Departments are responsible for adhering to the following policies and are responsible for ensuring their department’s content is current and follows the established web content policy. Communications reserves the right to remove any content, photographs, or graphics that do not adhere to the Web Content Policy.
Web pages must meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) per Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. Use this outline to make sure that your web pages are readable and navigable by humans as well as assistive technology including screen readers, switches, or eye tracking devices.
- Use sequential headings and lists to created scannable and structured content.
- Heading 1 is always reserved for the page title. There can only be one.
- Heading 2 is used for all major content sections and must come first.
- Heading 3 exists for sub sections within major content sections.
- Headings 4-6 exist for granularity in long form documents. Do not use simply for size.
- Do not use bold text to identify a heading. Use heading tags to establish structure.
- Link descriptive phrases such as About Vancouver. Do not use “click here” or “more info”.
- Do not paste full URLs on a webpage. Instead, link descriptive text such as Introduction to Web Accessibility.
- Underlined text is reserved for links. Underlined text indicates a hyperlink on the web.
- Images must have descriptive alt text. Do not use clipart, unlicensed or found images.
- Complex images require a long description. Graphs and charts require a text description below.
- Tables require column and/or row headings. Include a summary of the data above or below.
- Do not open links in a new tab. This is disorienting to non-visual users and it breaks the back button in the browser. OK on webforms only.
- PDF files must not be scanned. Structure, selectable text and tagging is required.
General Copy Requirements
- Do not use the phrase “please note” in any circumstance.
- Do not use punctuation in headlines or subheadings.
- Do not use exclamation marks.
- Do not apply UPPERCASE or color to text.
- Do not use bold and italics to emphasize words or phrases.
The homepage intends to tell the story of the City of Vancouver. It is designed to be engaging, informative, and useful. If you have an important message that needs to be shared with the Vancouver community or stakeholders, please work with Communications several weeks in advance to plan a campaign around that messaging. This may or may not include the homepage in deliverables.
When developing a page, please keep language plain, simple and understandable to the general public. Avoid using jargon and vague sentences. Break up large text with sequential headings, bullets and lists. Adhere to the City’s writing style guide found on the Communications Intranet page.
Content must be reviewed twice per year. When building pages, consider whether the content might have a useful end of life date. If a historical page serves a purpose, it may be maintained. The website is not an archive or intended for long term document storage. Out of date content clutters search results and creates a frustrating user experience.
Only 24 months of documents such as minutes, agendas, reports, notes etc. will be housed on the website. All other documents will be archived per their retention schedule for public record.
A general contact email address and/or phone number for departments or projects is preferred. All phone numbers must be formatted in AP style: 360-487-8600. Do not use periods or other characters to separate numbers. Addresses are not placed in parentheses.
In specific cases, individual contact information is required for legal reasons or compliance such as listing contact information for the City’s risk manager.
Biographical information is rarely beneficial to the task-based users of our website. Analytics continue to show that these pages are among the least visited on our website. The only approved biography pages are for the City Manager, Deputy City Managers, Police Chief, Fire Chief and Mayor and Council.
Headshots are no longer allowed on the website. The only exceptions are for the City Manager, Deputy City Managers, Police Chief, Fire Chief and Mayor and Council.
Photography and Images
Photos and designed images must meet branded style requirements and we must own the license. Clipart, found images and unlicensed images are not allowed on the City’s website. Use high resolution images (at least 1280×720 pixels) and avoid out of focus, small or pixelated images. If you have questions about photo use or require a specific image, please contact Communications for consultation.
Some exceptions may be necessary for pages that include security camera footage or still images, such as those used by the Police Department.
All webforms must have a separate confirmation page and email message. Webforms can deliver individual submissions to an email address or allow a web editor to download all responses at once.
Webforms for events or RSVP purposes should be created in Microsoft Forms.
Departments within the City must use cityofvancouver.us/department as their URL structure. External domains and vanity URLs expose our web properties to exploitation through techniques such as spoofing and cross-site scripting attacks. Insecure domain names compromise our cyber security insurance.
External links rarely benefit the visitor, often negatively impact the user experience by linking to outdated information or broken pages and can confuse the user when they’re taken away from our site.
The only exception to this rule is a link to partners the City has a formal relationship with. This may include City funded organizations, governments, funding sources, or other entities the City has an active partnership with.
For example, linking to Harper’s Playground, Visit Vancouver, Housing Authority of Vancouver, or other similar organizations where a clear line of partnership or funding can be drawn is appropriate. Listing “helpful links” to organizations we are not connected with is not a function of the City’s website.
Copying and pasting links: Check the accuracy on URLs/links from emails. Links pasted from emails often contain extra strings of text with referral data that make the links confusing to read or difficult to access.
The City’s website includes a translation tool. The tool only translates content on pages, not content in PDFs. Content owners are encouraged to develop content for pages so the information can be translated. If a document requires translation please work with the City’s vendor Linguava to ensure accurate translation.
The web calendar is only for City meetings, volunteer opportunities, and events. The City reserves the option to continue to post community events that the City is a sponsor. If a community event is posted, in addition to being sponsored by the City, the event must:
- Be open to the public
- Occur within Vancouver, Washington
- Not advocate for or against any political cause, party or candidate
- Be non-commercial
- Not promote any religion or religious viewpoint
- Be in accord with the strategic plan and operating principles of the City of Vancouver
Events where City facilities, parks, etc. have been rented by an event organizer does not count as sponsorship by the City.
Policy in progress.
Policy in progress.